Earlier during the winter the crew in charge at Fangraphs opened up their corner of the internet to the community for self publishing. It’s something they had done in the past, but had shut down for a little bit. It was re-opened on a limited basis and on Tuesday Christian Tinory had an article about Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett and how he’s looking like Andrew Miller out of the bullpen in some ways.
The thought behind the comparison is that when Andrew Miller went from bad starter to elite reliever the biggest change he made was adding a whole lot of velocity to his slider. From 2011 to 2012 his slider went from 78.8 MPH to 83.4 MPH. That took the pitch from a below-average one to an elite one. Tinory then began to look to see if any other recent pitchers had been able to make a big increase in their slider velocity.
At the top of the list from the 2017 to 2018 seasons was none other than Amir Garrett. The Reds reliever made a similar move from the rotation to the bullpen between seasons. His velocity jumped from 79.4 MPH to 83.6 MPH with the change – easily the most in baseball. And much like that of Miller, Garrett saw his slider improve dramatically. In 2017 his slider was worth -0.75 runs per 100 sliders thrown. In 2018 the pitch was worth 2.49 runs per 100 sliders thrown.
The difference between where that rates out is quite large. Amir Garrett’s slider was rated 114th out of 158 pitchers with at least 70 innings thrown in 2017. In 2018, using the cutoff of 60 innings, his slider ranked 14th out of 209 pitchers. It turned into an elite offering out of the bullpen after being a well below-average one in the rotation.
It wasn’t just the slider that improved, though. The fastball also played much better for Amir Garrett. It was still a below-average offering, but made big strides from the previous season. In 2017 the pitch was -2.58 runs per 100 thrown. That improved to just -0.50 runs per 100 thrown in 2018. The velocity may have played a big role there, too. The fastball gained 3.4 MPH from one year to the next.
The jump in velocity came for Amir Garrett on all of his pitches. Some of that was likely due to coming out of the bullpen. He didn’t need to pace himself like he did as a starter. But some of that was also likely due to his health. Garrett pitched through a hip issue in 2017, but had PRP injections, as well as stem cell injections after the season to help him recover.
It’s not likely to see another big jump in velocity for Amir Garrett in 2019. But what could be interesting is to see if the new pitching coach, and assistant pitching coach who are looking far more into analytics will be able to get a bit more out of not only Garrett, but other pitchers on the staff. With regards to Garrett specifically, a small boost in the pitch value for his fastball or slider, and a slightly different rate at which he uses them could make for a rather big difference in 2019 for the reliever.
Photo Credit: Hayden Schiff. Licensing for the photo can be found here.